Home' Smart Farmer : May 2014 Contents Smart dogs
Learn to train working dogs before buying one
YOU know it when you see it ... a master in control of
a working dog.
Using signals and whistles, the handler uses an
almost mystical level of communication with his four-
No more swearing or shouting -- this is the ultimate
partnership in working livestock.
You can experience this life-changing development
in using your working dog by enrolling in a two-day
course at the Working Dog Centre, in the Mid North.
Expert handler, writer and 'Working Dog
Whisperer' Ben Page will teach you how to use the
same dog to muster a paddock, do yard work, draft,
work a shearing shed and load a truck.
This can be achieved if you pick the right dog,
train the handler and train the dog using Ben Page's
The module-based adult-learning course will teach
you how to train and work dogs calmly.
The Working Dog Centre has full classroom and
The next courses will be on July 2-3 and July 5-6.
Places are limited.
You can attend the course before buying a dog. It
is better to learn how to pick the right dog first.
"The skill is understanding the dog's language and
communicating with him. It is a skill that many farm-
ers don't know they don't have," Mr Page said.
"Working dogs don't come with an instruction
manual -- it's up to the owner to develop the skills
for a successful partnership."
A past participant said: "After 30 years with live-
stock, I realised that what I know about dog training
could be written on the back of a postage stamp
with room left over".
• Need to know more?
08 8667 5484 or www.workingdogcentre.com
Ben Page's fully trained dogs seen here droving a mob of
1200 sheep on Kangaroo Island.
Ask the Working Dog Whisperer
Got a question about working dogs?
Send it to the Working Dog Whisperer, Ben Page.
Perhaps you are having trouble with some aspect
of your dog training, or your stock work? Do you
feel there might be an easier way? Or do you
simply wish to ask a question of a general nature?
If you're having a dog problem, then chances are
that other readers are too. Your questions will be
published along with the answers in this column.
We hope this initiative will help readers, and their
• Please send your questions to:
The ball game
Snip's thoughts on the matter
Let us see what Snip thinks about all that.
He considers that you are bringing the ball
for him and immediately thinks "ok, here's
another challenge! I remember this game. You
throw it and I bring it back a few times -- to
show you how clever I am. When I get a bit
fed up with that, I'm going to run away with
that ball and not bring it back. I also need
to make sure you understand that you are
to watch me -- so, sometimes I'll go back
to you, but that's just to make sure you're
paying attention -- after all, I'm the leader here,
otherwise you wouldn't have brought the ball
out for me. But I know that it's that trophy
that you want. I am confident that if you make
a run for it, I can get back to it first, grab it and
run away. I'll prove to you that I'm the leader".
A challenge -- not a game
it is a challenge. He is proving that if he keeps
the ball at the end of the game, or, if you go
near it, he is fitter, faster and better than you.
When he leaves the ball out in the open,
he is showing off his trophy to the world. But
When a dog wins a ball game, it knows it has confirmed its place as the leader.
with BEN PAGE
Working Dog Centre
when you go near it, he is going to grab it and
run away. He thinks you are trying to steal it.
Never play a game you can't win
There are a couple of solutions to this and,
by far, the easiest one is something I have
mentioned before in the Leadership Rules, and
it is this: never play a game with a dog that you
That includes ball games and things such as
tug-o-war. You know the one ... when you let
the dog grab a piece of rope in his mouth and
you swing him around and around.
Do not play a game with your dog by
throwing a stick or something that the dog can
get himself, like a plastic bottle. There are a
million sticks and copious plastic bottles out
there. The dog can always win that game --
there is always another stick or another plastic
No human will ever win those games ...
and, when the dog wins, he knows he has
confirmed his place as the leader.
The second solution
If you insist on playing ball with Snip, there
is another solution. Although I am against
feeding dogs for training purposes, you could
From now on, only play the ball game with
Snip when he is hungry. And you are going to
have to do it permanently.
Put him on a short lead and throw the ball.
When he fetches it and comes back, give
him a bit of food.
By using this method, you have control.
Initially, make sure you give him a tidbit
every time he returns with the ball. Then move
to the next stage.
When you are positive that he associates the
food with bringing the ball back, then start
to only give him the food once every five or
six times. He will be hopeful that the food is
coming, so he'll always bring the ball back.
Now ... part of this re-training, is to get him
to drop the ball, so you don't have to drag
the ball out of his mouth. Therefore, when he
returns, drop the food a little distance away
from him. He will have to drop the ball to get
When you have decided that the game has
ended, make sure you let him see you put the
ball in your pocket. DO NOT carry the ball
in your hand -- he may be tempted to make a
snatch for it and you will get bitten.
The final signal
If you have been reading the smartfarmer
Working Dog Series, you will remember that I
outlined the Leadership Rules some time ago.
One of those rules is the importance of
height in a dog's world. Dogs consider height
belongs to the leader. The higher you are the
bigger you are and the more likely you are to
be the leader. So use that height advantage.
Here is how to do that.
At the end of your ball game, take the ball
inside and put it up somewhere special where
he cannot reach but where he can clearly see
it. Indeed, make sure Snip sees you put that
ball up high.
From then on, only bring it out when you
want to play with it. That is how you will win
the ball game, and that is how you will keep
being top dog.
If you want your dog to listen to you, avoid
playing games that he can easily win, such as
throwing a stick or a plastic bottle.
My dog Snip loves playing ball
with me. I throw him the ball
and he brings it back. But after
four or five goes, he won't. He
just sits there and chews on it.
Sometimes he comes back to
me when I call but he just won't
bring the ball back.
and runs away. I look like a fool.
Wednesday 2 & Thursday 3 July
Saturday 5 & Sunday 6 July
Learn how to train
a working dog
Ben Page has a unique understanding of dogs. This popular 2-day
course is based on dog language and Ben Page's 'Natural Method' of
It will give you the theory, practical sessions and a complete system to
be able to train your dog.
Learn • How to bring out your dog's instinct • Picking the right dog
• Leadership rules • Stop, recall, side commands • Dogs' signals
• Small classes • Full notes • No dog, no problem; just let us know.
"I wish I d met you 40 years ago!"
"I knew a bit about working
sheep, but actually letting the
dogs use their natural instinct
and ability has opened my eyes."
"I ruined good dogs in the past
because I didn t know the
"The skills you have taught me
will stay with me for life."
08 8667 5484
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